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The City Journals

The Future Governance of County Islands in Sandy

Nov 06, 2015 10:24AM ● By Stacy Nielsen

By Stacy Nielsen

Sandy - Residents who live in the unincorporated Salt Lake County islands and peninsulas will have the opportunity to vote in this year’s general election on whether or not to annex into an eligible city, or remain unincorporated, due to a change at the state legislature earlier this year. If residents live in a township, then they will vote whether or not they want to incorporate or become a metro township, as townships are not able to be annexed into a neighboring city. 

If residents elect to become a metro township, then the decision needs to be made whether or not to join the municipal services district. Metro townships have border protections, they can’t be annexed easily, they have their own governing board and they control their own land use. They are beholden to the county as a township and the county mayor is still their mayor.  The townships that will be able to vote include White City, Copperton, Magna, Kearns, Millcreek and Emigration Canyon.

There are 40 islands in the county, and of those islands, one is eligible to annex into South Jordan, another is eligible to annex into Cottonwood Heights and one has no current residents and therefore cannot be voted on, thus leaving the remaining 37 islands eligible to annex into Sandy City.

“Sandy has always had a policy of self-determination: if you want to annex we will let you annex, but we won’t force it,” Korban Lee, the assistant CAO of Sandy City, said.

A FAQ has been created and is available on Sandy City’s website to address the concerns of the residents of the unincorporated islands. Residents will also be able to use a Tax Comparison Calculator that was created by Sandy City and vetted by Salt Lake County, county consultants, neighboring cities and Zions Bank to be accurate and provide a side-by-side comparison of taxes from the county versus those of Sandy City. Excel is needed in order to use the tax calculator.

“If the cities annex in, then most would see a decrease in property taxes,” Lee said

On Sept. 28, county island residents were also able to attend a town hall meeting, held at Eastmont Middle School, to gain the county’s perspective and address their concerns on whether or not taxes will increase or decrease, and what, if any, municipal services will change if they elect to annex into Sandy. The meeting included a panel representing the county council, Zions Bank, Salt Lake County Mayor McAdams and was led by the associate deputy mayor of Salt Lake County, Kimberly Barnett. 

One resident at the town hall meeting raised the question of whether the county has the ability to reduce the cost of police and fire. 

“It’s a budget decision; what quality of service depends on how much you are willing to pay and depending upon whether or not it’s a high priority,” Mayor McAdams said, also indicating earlier that “the municipal services budget is sound, but if we keep poking holes in the budget, we will lose the ability to provide services.” He later stated, “Salt Lake County will continue to provide services if the Municipal Services District continues to hire us.”

Residents in attendance received a copy of the Zions Bank Executive Summary of the fiscal analysis they completed, along with a detailed comparison chart of unincorporated county islands to provide information comparing the costs of municipal services based on the differing municipal structures and other provisional service methods. Zions Bank did not complete a study on each island. However, residents can compare costs for their own home on the calculator. 

For example, on page 12 of the Executive Summary there is a Tax Calculator Inputs Example with the average property tax and utility usage rates of Sandy City versus that of unincorporated Salt County:

Sandy City average property tax and utility services rates total $657.23, while unincorporated Salt Lake County totals $773.92; the average rates for South Jordan total $893.38, versus $939.60 of that of the county; and Cottonwood Heights’ average rates are calculated at $613.85, versus $719.44 of that of the county. These calculations represent only what Zions Bank has found to be a “typical scenario,” and the values may go up or down depending upon individual calculations. 

“We want you to be happy to choose what is best for you,” Mayor McAdams said, while the panel also echoed that they believe in the policy of self-determination, encouraging residents to vote in favor of what they feel will be best for them and their community. 

“Residents may choose to remain unincorporated, but future annexations are still possible,” Barnett reminded those attending the town hall meeting, when speaking of the ballot language and the upcoming election as they get ready to send in their ballots. 

Residents will receive a mail-in ballot, expected to hit homes on Oct. 5. The ballots can be mailed in and need to be postmarked the day before Election Day on Nov. 3, but can be dropped off at the eligible city recorder’s office on the day of elections. In order for an island to be annexed in, only a majority vote is needed, which is 50 percent plus one for each individual island. 

“The council views the question of annexation as very personal. As a city, we firmly believe in self-determination and have rarely annexed a property against the owner’s wishes. That said, we also believe there are substantial benefits to annexation into Sandy and invite all in the county islands to officially become a part of our city,” Stephen Smith, chairman of the Sandy City Council, said.

To access the FAQ and the Tax Comparison Calculator, visit Sandy City’s webpage at:

Residents will also find the complete executive summary from Zions Bank, ballot language, comparison charts, maps and an information toolbox on the Salt Lake County website at: